HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Safe Travels program is coming to a close after a year and a half and over 12 million arrivals.
It was a day of mixed emotions, but one thing was clear: Airport operations are about to get a lot smoother.
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“It’s been a multi-agency effort that was really unprecedented,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Jai Cunningham. “Just know that moving forward, it’s back to, you know, reverting to sort of 2019, pre-COVID. But I do think everyone’s a little wiser.”
Cunningham said it will take until the end of April to take down the airport screening kiosks, one will be left in case things ramp up again. The 112 thermal cameras that were installed will be effectively out of commission starting Saturday, March 26.
“They can’t be repurposed for anything else. They’re literally just thermal cameras. So they’ll stay in place, mothballed if you will, in case they need to be used at a different time,” Cunningham said. “The other cameras, some of the cameras we have are sort of tracing cameras, and they could be used for — repurposed for security purposes.”
The administrator of Safe Travels was proud the program kept Hawaii’s COVID numbers relatively low, but said responsibility now falls on the public.
“97% of visitors were able to comply with Hawaii’s requests. About 3% did not even know we had a travel program,” Safe Travels administrator Sheri Kajiwara said.
Visitors who spoke to KHON2 had differing opinions, but agreed they feel safe going forward.
“But coming here, it’s like taking a step back,” said Los Angeles visitor Robert Dentice, “it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re going through this stuff again? Oh, I have to do this computer stuff, what the heck!’ So that part’s a little disappointing, but to be honest I’m just excited to be in Hawaii.”
“It makes me feel safer that everyone, you know, had to sign in ahead of time and they were vaccinated, makes me feel much better,” San Francisco visitor Alison Klippel said of Safe Travels. When asked if she would still feel safe going forward without Safe Travels, Klippel said, “yeah!”
Kajiwara also wanted to remind everyone to not travel if they are feeling sick.
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“Lots of people think the virus, ‘I’m strong, I’m young, it won’t affect me, I’m not worried,'” Kajiwara said, “but for those that are vulnerable, if you carry that virus to those people, it can be very fatal for them. so please try to think of others and not just yourself and I think we’ll be better off as a society.”